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S. Korea to shut down oldest reactor in 2017

All Headlines 18:01 June 16, 2015

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, June 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's oldest nuclear reactor will come to a permanent halt when its operational license expires in 2017 as the state nuclear operator on Tuesday gave up a second bid for a life extension amid safety woes.

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) said it accepted the government's recommendation to shut down the Kori-1 reactor, in the southeastern port city of Busan, with two days left before the deadline for the proposal.

Built in 1977, the 580-megawatt light water reactor extended its life by 10 years to 2017, but it has faced growing pressure to shutdown from residents and civic groups over safety concerns in light of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan.

It will be the first time that South Korea permanently closes a nuclear power plant, presenting the difficult challenge of decommissioning.

"Although the Kori-1 is safe for continued operation, there were differing opinions over its economic feasibility," the KHNP said following a meeting of board of directors.

"The board members agreed that closing the reactor wouldn't pose a serious problem for the nation's energy supply and it would help the nuclear industry's mid- and long-term development."

The Kori-1 accounts for a mere 0.5 percent of the nation's total energy production, according to the energy ministry.

Nuclear officials and experts say the first-ever closure could pave the way for developing the nation's decommissioning technology as more countries are phasing out aged reactors following Japan's nuclear crisis.

KHNP CEO Cho Seok vowed to develop decommissioning technology for the disposal of nuclear waste and for the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel to prepare for its retirement.

"Some may regret the decision to shutter the Kori-1 although its safety was guaranteed, but the nuclear industry is now faced with a paradigm shift," Cho said in an e-mail to company employees.

The energy ministry expected it would take at least 15 years to demolish the reactor, pledging to set the legal framework and develop decommissioning technology.

There are 23 nuclear reactors producing about a third of the electrical energy for Asia's fourth-largest economy.

While 11 others are or will soon be under construction, the ministry recently announced a long-term energy plan to build two more nuclear power plants, bringing the total to 36 plants by 2029 as part of efforts to cut carbon emissions.

ejkim@yna.co.kr
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